59 of 72 people found the following review helpful
MOTHER! OH GOD, MOTHER! BOMB!! BOMB!!!,
This review is from: Psycho (DVD)
This remake of the cherished 1960 Hitchcock classic is pointless and unnecessary. It's like remaking Sunset Boulevard (rest in peace, Billy Wilder) in color with Raquel Welch and Freddy Prinze, Jr. in the Gloria Swanson and William Holden roles and throwing in a Basic Instinct sex scene for good measure. Psycho is like Casablanca, Laura, It's a Wonderful Life, Some Like It Hot and To Kill a Mockingbird -- great films where the audience, after seeing them, can never picture other actors playing those roles. For me, Marion Crane will always be Janet Leigh and Norman Bates will always be Anthony Perkins -- period. Hitchcock's Psycho is a masterpiece that deserves to stand on its own without a shot-for-shot pale imitation to stain its memory. There are many things wrong with this version, but I'll concentrate on four areas:
First, Vince Vaughn has a completely and utterly impossible task of trying to match up to Anthony Perkins' performance in the original. Perkins' Norman Bates came out of his own personality. He, like Norman Bates, lost his father at an early age and had a internal conflict over his own sexual identity. He, like Norman Bates, had a clinging, possessive mother. Vaughn, in contrast, is behind the eight ball as soon as he appears on the screen in the remake. Vaughn plays Norman Bates. Perkins IS Norman Bates. Vaughn tries his best, but it isn't nearly enough.
The updated touches director Gus Van Sandt has added -- namely the masturbation, vomiting, nudity and the added gore. Instead of making a positive additional contribution to the story, these updates merely seem like a gratuitous tack-on that Van Sandt has added to appeal to modern audiences. Martin Scorcese's remake of Cape Fear earned the right to deal more graphically with its subject matter than the original. In that case, the added story elements gave that version a depth that the original did not possess. The updates in the remake of Psycho, however, seem like pandering to an audience that Van Sandt fears won't accept his version without the modern expected minimum of sex, violence and gore.
Van Sandt also makes a concession to modern audiences by filming in color. If there has ever been a film that was destined to be made in black and white, it is Psycho. Whether Hitchcock meant to film the original in black and white for artistic reasons, to save on the budget or merely to spare audiences the gore of the shower scene, the final effect worked beautifully without color. Bernard Herrmann even wrote his brilliant score exclusively for strings, striving for a "black and white sound." A perfect example is the scene where Detective Milton Arbogast (Martin Balsam in the original, William H. Macy in the remake) sneaks up to the Bates house. In the original, even though it is still daylight, there is a sense of foreboding due to the black and white photography. The shadows are darker and the house looks even more menacing. Macy's climb up to the house, in contrast, seems too colorful and too bright. There's no menace or foreboding to the scene at all. Anyone who finds black and white films unwatchable might change their tune if they see both versions of Psycho.
However, for me, the biggest weakness of the remake of Psycho is Anne Heche's performance. Heche is a good actress, but here she makes all of the wrong choices. Marion Crane, as played by Janet Leigh, is a person who has followed the rules all of her life -- a "good girl" who has worked hard and has a good head on her shoulders. We identified with Janet Leigh's Marion because we saw a lot of ourselves in her. When Marion steals the $40,000 in the original, we root for her because Leigh has done such an effective job of establishing Marion as a good person who sees her life slipping away and is driven to her larceny by her desperation. And when she is gone, we all feel the loss of someone we cared about.
Heche, in contrast, has stated that she saw Marion as a flightly, scatterbrained person who has no perception of the consequence of her actions. This approach misses the whole point of the character. In the Hitchcock original, there is a moment of indecision by the audience after Marion's exit over shifting allegiance to Norman Bates. We have spent the first half of the film becoming involved in the fate of a person we identify with and care about. Now, Hitchcock forces us to identify with the person who is covering up her demise. Because of Heche's approach to the role, Marion becomes a superficial dingbat who elicits no sympathy while she is alive and who the audience does not miss when she is dead. The whole point of the story is that Marion IS a good person who "just goes a little mad" when she steals the $40,000. She isn't, as Heche suggests in her interpretation, an irresponsible person who doesn't realize the consequences of her actions. Heche's approach blunts all of the dramatic impact of the story and irrepably hurts the film's effectiveness.
Aside from a performance by Julianne Moore that improves upon the shrill performance of Vera Miles in the original and a performance by William H. Macy that equals that of Martin Balsam, this film has nothing new or positive to offer. Gus Van Sandt is a talented filmmaker who hopefully will avoid projects like this in the future. He should concentrate on establishing his own legacy rather than trying to copy the legacy of Alfred Hitchcock. If he goes up against The Master of Suspense, he's going to lose badly.
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Initial post: Jul 7, 2014 10:31:25 AM PDT
Henry Martinez says:
That was a great review man, seriously, I never saw this version, but am a fan of Van Sant. I believe him to be a wonderful director, although, he, much like Wes Anderson, gets lost in is own head sometimes. I keep encouraging my partner to watch the original since we both watch Bates Motel, the AE show loosely based on these characters. He wants to watch this updated version. He didn't realize how old the original movie was. I'm going to send him this review. I couldn't have said it better myself.
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